Netflix’s ‘Hustle’ follows the story of Stanley Sugerman, an NBA scout who is tired of constantly being on the move. He wants to become a coach and get more time to spend with his family. Stan finds the opportunity knocking on his door, but he has to fulfill his last role as the indispensable scout. He has to find the perfect addition to the team. Stan finds one such player in Spain, but this young man, Bo Cruz, comes with his own set of problems.
The film focuses on Stan’s efforts to turn Bo from a raw talent to a professional player. It takes a lot of hard work, and both of them have to survive immense pressure to get what they want. Since Stan works for the Philadelphia 76ers and we see a lot of faces from the NBA in the film, many would wonder if the story itself belongs to some well-known figure. Could ‘Hustle’ be rooted in reality? Here’s what we found out about the origin of its story.
Is Hustle a True Story?
No, ‘Hustle’ is not based on a true story. It is an original story written by Oscar-nominated Will Fetters (‘A Star Is Born) and Taylor Materne, who is known for his work on games like NBA 2k10 and NBA 2k20. The combination of these writers led to a much-needed balance in the story where emotion and sports found equal footing. While the film doesn’t draw inspiration from any real NBA player, the creators of ‘Hustle’ made sure to make it as authentic as possible. Adam Sandler was approached for the role of Stanley Sugerman due to his well-known love for the game of basketball.
Sandler found the script very inspiring, and loved its aspect of hard work and not always getting what you want out of it. Sandler, who also served as the producer for the film, was interested in keeping things as close to NBA as possible. Director Jeremiah Zagar told The Hollywood Reporter that Sandler wanted Bo’s role to be inhabited by someone who actually knows the game. He wanted a real player for the part. However, the script had to go through some changes before they could settle on an actor.
Originally, Sandler’s character was supposed to find the rising star of the NBA somewhere in China. The writers were very interested in exploring that arc. However, Netflix told them to go to either Europe or Latin America. The reason behind this is that Netflix had been “turned down by the Chinese government,” which Netflix’s CEO mentioned in an interview with CNBC. This little hiccup led the team to Spain, and they began their search of finding the perfect actor for Bo Cruz.
Sandler said that the process of finding the right actor took place during quarantine, with a lot of basketball players and good actors who could play basketball auditioning for it. Juancho Hernangómez, who eventually landed the role, wasn’t initially interested in the part. However, his brother and sister convinced him to try it out and they made an audition tape, which impressed Sandler. “The fact that he was a great player, and a young guy, and still passionate about making a name for himself — it all connected,” he told Entertainment Weekly.
After the casting for Bo Cruz was finalized, the team looked toward getting more real-life basketball players on board. The co-producer of the Netflix production, LeBron James, further simplified that process by making sure the cast and crew had anything NBA-related that they needed. Therefore, although ‘Hustle’ is not based on a real person or event, the makers have maintained the true spirit of the game of basketball by utilizing the prowess of real-life players who offer an authentic portrayal of the fictional characters.